Vote against Article 50

07 February 2017

JEREMY CORBYN has imposed a three-line whip on Labour MPs to vote for Theresa May’s Bill to start the Brexit process. We believe this is a seriously wrong position.

Leaving the European Union will be as disastrous for the working class, here, in Europe and around the world, as it was when Labour opposed it in the June 2016 referendum.

In fact with Donald Trump’s inauguration and Theresa May’s enthusiastic alliance with him, this has become even clearer.

Quite apart from the effect it will have on millions of workers’ and their families, who work abroad in Europe or come here to take up jobs, or wish to do so in the future, it will result in nations raising trade barriers and borders against one another and result in international tensions rising. Trade wars for a start and real wars to follow.

A “Labour Brexit” is not a prospect. Even if the nine amendments Labour is supporting were be carried (highly unlikely) it is May and her Tory ministers who conduct the negotiations. The prime minister has already decided on her red lines: first and foremost strict immigration controls; lower taxes on the rich and big business; and to cap it all strong economic, political and military ties to Trump’s USA.

Contrary to what some apologists for Corbyn’s three line whip are saying, it is possible to vote against Article 50 and move amendments.

Amendments include a demand for a parliamentary vote on the final deal before it is submitted to MEPs in the European Parliament, protecting workers’ rights and access to the full tariff-free single market, guaranteeing the rights of migrants already living in the UK (though not future ones) and regular consultation with national and regional parliaments during the talks.

However it should be noted that while access to the single market will not be granted without free movement this is not explicit. Such evasions, aimed at papering over the PLP’s divisions, will break apart at the first serious test.

Nevertheless it is possible to vote against the Bill at every major stage while still doing whatever possible to soften its blows against the working class. Labour should do so.

Diane Abbott’s argument for voing for article 50 now, but reviewing our position once the negotiated deal is finally put before parliament in two years’ time contradicts her brave defence (up to now) of free movement of labour.

We know ending this is precisely the Tories’ red line. So people will ask, why did you not oppose the process from the beginning? We should oppose the Bill not just in the parliamentary talking shop but at the polls, on the streets and in the workplaces. Our aim must be to free the majority of workers from their illusions in Brexit and win then away from reactionary hostility to migrant workers.

Democratic Mandate

Clearly many Labour MPs, and Jeremy himself fear the party will be painted as going against the people’s mandate. But many of the 52 per cent who gave this mandate to leave the EU did not foresee replacing membership with a series of laws and international agreements that will attack the working class.

In fact it was a narrowly won vote, where millionaire press barons misled people as to what the outcome would really look like. Over the next few years, this will become more apparent to many working class Leavers. If Labour holds its nerve and remains consistent and principled, the party will reap its rewards when that happens.

It would be foolish for any socialist party to support reactionary measures simply because a majority voted for them. That would be abdicating their duty to lead. For example, the Tories were elected on a promise to introduce more trade union restrictions, “reform” welfare rules and rewrite the Human Rights Act. Labour can and should oppose them every step of the way on these issues, despite their 2015 victory. Likewise it should oppose to Article 50.


As we go to press as many as 80 Labour MPs have said they will defy the whip. Two shadow cabinet ministers, Tulip Siddiq and Jo Stevens, have resigned and two party whips have said they will vote against the Bill.

Many of these are serial rebels with a track record of trying to destabilise Jeremy’s leadership. Others are probably trying to save their seats in heavily Leave voting constituencies. But whatever their motives they are right to rebel this time on this issue.

The truth is Jeremy has retreated from a good position to a worse one (see back page). Fearful of losing Labour seats in Copeland and Stoke Central bye-election on 23 February, he has rushed through this change without any consultation with members. This is no longer the “honest politics” he campaigned on.

The stance Jeremy and his team have taken will backfire on him on three levels.

Rather than disorient and potentially alienate his mass support in the party, we urge Jeremy to change his mind and oppose triggering Article 50.

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